Ahab and Quint had their fictitious quarries in “Moby Dick” and “Jaws” respectively, but real people have a similar — and equally challenging — quest every year at this time in the famous warm and deep fishing waters off the Kona Coast, on Hawaii’s Big Island. The prey is the Pacific Blue Marlin – specifically one that weighs more than a half-ton called a Grander. The annual event is the Hawaii International Billfish Tournament (HIBT), now in its 50th year; the “Grandfather of All Fishing Tournaments.”
The top prize (There are ten in all) is the prestigious Governor’s trophy, awarded to the boat that earns the most points based on the cumulative weight of all the billfish and tuna it catches. Billfish must weigh at least 300 pounds to qualify; tuna 100 pounds. The prizes are trophies; the $3,500-$5,000 per-boat entry fees are reimbursed only by the thrill of the chase. Participants are urged to “tag and release” – to get the leader in hand and tag the fish with an official tag, then disengage the hook or cut the leader as close to the hook as possible and release the fish alive and capable of survival. (Tagging and releasing is not essential; a lot of good fish for eating are caught.)
But the grand prize is the Grander. Fewer than 70 Granders have been caught in Hawaii waters in the last 70 years; in the tournament, boating one is rare, indeed. Blue Marlin can swim at speeds of up to 50 mph, leading to exciting chases, and the angler is equipped with a mere rod and reel. Once hooked, Granders have been known to turn, leap and become predators — 1,000+ pounds of spear-armed fish lunging back at the angler or an onlooker on the boat.
If you happen to have a sturdy fishing boat in your back yard and want to get it some exercise, you might consider registering it for this year’s tournament. If not, and as a fisherman you’re intrigued by the challenge, you can charter a boat in Kona for HIBT.
Give me a call at 1-800-843-8771 if you need some more information and I will “Hook you up”